Emilie Schenkl was the wife of Subhash Chandra Bose, a major leader of Indian freedom movement. She was hired by Bose to help him write his book ‘The Indian Struggle’. This professional relationship turned personal and Bose proposed to her and they got secretly married in 1937. However, their marriage couldn’t get registered due to the German government’s objection as they had married as per Hindu traditions. Schenkl gave birth to Bose’s daughter Anita Bose Pfaff and both—the mother and daughter—were left without support in wartime Europe by Netaji, following his departure for the Southeast Asia in February 1943 and his sudden death two years later. Schenkl was a doting single parent to her daughter and worked in the Trunk Office in the post-war years, being the main breadwinner of her family. She was a loving daughter as well who refused to leave behind her aged mother and move to India. Though her husband’s family was initially reluctant, they later on accepted Schenkl although she never visited India. She even had an emotional first-time meeting with Bose's brother, Sarat Chandra Bose, his wife and children in Vienna.
Relationship with Subhash Chandra Bose
Emilie Schenkl first met Subhash Chandra Bose in Vienna in 1934, through Dr. Mathur, their mutual friend. Since Schenkl possessed strong English language, communication, and typing skills, she was hired by Subhash Chandra Bose to help him in writing his book ‘The Indian Struggle’. Soon, both got emotionally close to each other. While Bose was in Berlin, he even requested the German government to help her come from Vienna. After this, the couple’s ties deepened and they got married in 1937 as per Hindu traditions.
A few years later, on 29 November 1942, a daughter, Anita Bose Pfaff was born to them. The following year, Bose left Schenkl and Anita to travel to Japanese-occupied Southeast Asia in order to form the Provisional Government of Free India as well the Indian National Army. Then on 18 August 1945, he died in a plane crash in Taiwan while trying to escape to Dairen (now known as Dalian) on Manchurian peninsula. In her nine years of marriage to Bose, she had spent less than three years with him.
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Emilie Schenkl was born on 26 December 1910 in Vienna, in an Austrian Catholic family. She started her primary schooling towards end of the Great War. Later on, she was enrolled in a nunnery by her father who was unhappy with her progress in school. Then after deciding against becoming a nun, Schenkl went back to school and completed her education.
She got married to Subhash Chandra Bose in 1937 and gave birth to his daughter, Anita Bose Pfaff. After surviving the war with her daughter, she started working shifts in the Trunk Office to support her family. She also met Sarat Bose and his family in Vienna and was welcomed by them into the Bose family although she never visited India.
Emilie Schenkl died in March 1996, at the age of 85.